Construction by ski resorts expected to bouy industry

The summer construction season doesn't look very promising in the Truckee Meadows, but two Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts will build facilities this summer.

Construction of a new lodge at the top of Heavenly Mountain Resort's gondola is expected to begin by mid June, and Diamond Peak Ski Resort will start construction of a new skier services building on May 1.

The 14,720-square-foot lodge at Heavenly will be a year-round facility housing food and beverage services and restrooms, says Casey Blann, vice president of mountain operations. Currently there is no indoor seating at the top of the gondola, far and away the main people mover at the 4,800-acre resort.

The new lodge will seat 484 people and offers the many sightseers who ride the gondola a chance to escape the often-harsh winter weather.

"Oftentimes they don't come quite clothed for it," Blann says. "The bottom of the gondola is 6,300 feet, and the end is at 9,100 feet it's a whole different world up there."

Heavenly Mountain Resort is in discussion with a general contractor to build the project, which was designed by Collaborative Design Studio of Reno. Heavenly hopes to break ground on the project by June 15 and have the project completed by Nov. 1.

Most large improvement projects at ski resorts take two years to complete, says Russ Pecoraro, director of communications: one year to lay the underground infrastructure once the snow melts, and another year for vertical construction. However, the new lodge at Heavenly will be built in one season, Blann says, because infrastructure such as water, gas and sewer lines already is in place.

A seven-mile long dirt road that starts near the resort's Stagecoach Lodge in Nevada will bring workers and materials to the construction site, Blann says. Approximately 10,000 yards of soil will be excavated for the lodge footprint. Rocks from the excavation will be used for erosion control at the site, and the dirt will be used to build up a natural depression in front of the high-speed Tamarack lift that services skiers and boarders who ride the gondola up from Heavenly Village.

"Once the ground is dry we will be driving up as much materials as we can," Blann says. "We have a lot of experience in this situation with all the chairlift and snowmaking construction. We have a lot of experience in moving things over snow, and we will be aggressive once we start."

In Incline Village, the $3.7 million skier services building at Diamond Peak is the final piece of the resort's 15-year master plan, says Bill Horn, general manager of the Incline Village General Improvement District, which manages the ski resort. Despite a good snowpack, Diamond Peak will close a week earlier than planned in order to move office equipment and furnishings from current facilities so that demolition of those buildings can begin on May 1, the start of the building season at Lake Tahoe.

United Construction will build the 10,950-square-foot facility for Diamond Peak, which also was designed by Collaborative Design Studio. The project is expected to be completed by Oct. 15. It will employ between 75-100 construction workers total, five to seven from United.

"We could have stayed open to April 18, but we need every day in April to be prepared for construction to start May 1," Horn says. "I am sure United would agree that the building season is very tight, and they certainly cannot and don't want to waste one single day."

United will demolish three existing buildings that house the resort's administrative and ski patrol services, ticket sales, and children's ski center. The new building will house all three divisions under one roof and add more cohesion to the resort, Horn says.

"Our children's ski center has been very successful and will double in capacity so we don't have to turn families away; we've upgraded ticketing, which makes less time purchasing tickets; and we have created a greater sense of entrance into the resort."

The new skier services building culminates a 15-year master plan that began in the late 1990s. The plan called for improving an outdated ski lift, improving snowmaking capabilities, renovating the base lodge, and finally, constructing a new skier services center.

"We are very excited about it," Horn says. "Somebody told me recently that they have been waiting 15 years for us to finish this final piece of the master plan."

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